Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya
Richard Branson isn’t one for half-measures, and his delightful Mahali Mzuri is designed for a full-tilt—yet reposeful—African experience. Its 12 innovatively designed tents are just one reason Mahali Mzuri was voted Favourite Safari Camp in Condé Nast Traveller’s Reader’s Choice Awards in 2016. (And, it almost goes without saying that they resemble the common idea of “tent” about as much as a vintage Yugo resembles a Bentley).
We come to Africa to see the animals (and leave in love with its people, something Sir Richard knows well), and Mahali Mzuri, situated in the Olare Motorogi Conservancy, a Maasai Mara success story, is a superb place to experience the Mara’s heart-stirring abundance of game, including, of course, the Big Five and their plenitudinous supporting cast. And as for the dramatic Great Migration, scroll down a bit to Activities….
Those dozen delightful tents, interconnected by walkways, are set on a gentle rise above a quintessentially African scene: rolling hills dotted with acacias, animal-magnet waterways and, in the background, the limitless Maasai Mara. Mahali Mzuri means beautiful place in Kiswahili, and the camp proudly lives up to its name.
Dining is about—or a bit more than—what you’d expect from such a quality-conscious operation: fresh, locally sourced ingredients prepared by highly trained chefs, with extra dollops of hospitality and creativity. And, in addition to being alert to special dietary needs, Mahali Mzuri is glad to serve meals on your tent’s private veranda—as well as in the bush, on the main tent’s deck, or in the resplendent dining tent. The airy main tent’s library and fireplace are lovely places to relax before or after a dip in the 12-meter infinity pool just outside.
The Maasai Mara is famed for the massive movement of grazing animals as they cycle through the Vermont-sized Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem. Literally millions of wildebeest, zebras, and their opportunistic predators are on the move during the Great Migration, which crescendos in July through November, but is more or less constant (we recall mile-long trains of wildebeest during spring). Mahali Mzuri is adroitly situated near migratory paths, and under the seasoned direction of our Micato Safari Director, we criss-cross the Mara, often inside the private Olare Motorogi Consevency, avoiding whizzing mini-vans, seeking solitude among the animals and the Mara’s piercingly blue skies decorated by what Hemingway called “frothy mountain ranges of clouds piled one atop the other.”
And because East Africa’s people are such a vital and cheerful part of the safari experience, we’ll pay a visit to a local, resolutely traditional Maasai village, where our Safari Director—and we—are greeted as old and respected friends.